Glory to Jesus Christ!
Taking up the Gospel narrative from where we left off last week, today’s Gospel starts with our Lord leaving the country of the Gerasens, just as they asked Him to do, and crossing over the sea in a boat to His own country and city, here referring to Capharnaum.
And no sooner had our Lord arrived in Capharnaum, as the Gospel tells us, that He was met with a large group of people, and:
[T]hey brought to Him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: “Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
“Jesus, seeing their faith…” Let us see that the faith of those who brought the paralytic was truly pleasing to the Lord, the Lord Who could see what was in their hearts. And, indeed, it was not only the faith of those who brought him, but also the faith of the paralytic man himself. For the paralytic man also undoubtedly believed, as is clear for many reasons, not the least of which is that he chose to leave his house, and put up with being carried through the market-place, and did not shrink away from the real possibility of ridicule or abuse for appearing in the sight of everyone while on his sickbed.
And when he was brought unto the Lord, the Lord said to him, “Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
The Lord does not immediately proceed to heal the palsy, the exterior illness, the material illness, which was visible exteriorly to everyone. The Lord first heals that which was known to the paralytic man and to the Lord alone, the interior illness; that is, He absolved the sins of the soul.
The Lord here pulls up and discards the root of suffering, sin. Once sin is uprooted, the material sickness can be uprooted also. By forgiveness, the Lord restores the subtle senses of the palsied man; He heals and elevates his injured soul.
Note that the Lord calls the paralytic man “son,” for the Lord grants him the remission of his sins, wherein the adoption of sons is also conferred.
So it is also with us. We cannot call God our Father until we have ourselves been brought before Him, even in our illness, even being exposed before the world, even at the cost of inviting ridicule and abuse, but being brought before Him and hearing His saving words: Be of good heart, thy sins are forgiven thee. Then may we truly call God “Our Father.”
The Gospel continues:
And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: “He blasphemeth.”
The scribes, typically, were offended and upset. They had seen the Lord driving out disease by His own power, and casting out demons, and commanding the winds and the seas, and doing all these things in a way that no man could do. God alone could perform the works which the Lord had done, this is manifest. Yet, consumed with envy, instead of rejoicing at the wonders of God’s grace, these scribes complained, they grumbled, they accuse the Lord here of blasphemy.
And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Here our Lord without doubt manifests His Divinity, for to know the thoughts of men’s hearts is proper to God alone.
Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk?
Our Lord challenges the scribes by asking which is easier and quicker to do: to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk. To effect both of these – remitting of sins and the raising of the paralytic by divine power and the restoration of his strength – is possible for God but impossible for man in his natural power.
But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, then said He to the man sick of palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into his house.
If the Lord’s first work here, the remission of sins gave no material, external, visible evidence of itself, the raising of the paralytic by divine power here gives undeniable visible evidence. Our Lord performs a sign as testimony before all. The visible evidence of the one bears witness to the other. That is, the visible evidence, our Lord healing the paralytic man bodily, and him getting up and walking, taking up his bed, going to his house, this gives testimony and witness to our Lord healing the paralytic man spiritually in forgiving his sins. For He Who was able to do the one – the bodily healing – was clearly able do the other – the spiritual healing.
And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men.
The people marvelled, because the Lord performed a sign as God; nevertheless, they regarded Him as a man, though One with divine power. We know the Lord to be true God and true Man.
Today, my friends, let us know that there are those of us who also are ill of the palsy, especially a spiritual palsy, having souls which are inactive and unmoved toward good, souls which can do little more than lie upon the bed, having to be carried about by the prayers and efforts of those who care for us and love us.
But if we are taken up by repentance and confession and are brought to Christ, then we too shall hear His sweet and all-powerful voice saying to us: Be of good heart, my son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven you.
Then we will be healed, then we will take up our beds, all of our spiritual and bodily faculties, and go on to do good – not for its own sake, but for the sake of the Lord. Then, when our minds have seen and spiritually understood the many and great works of the Lord for our sake, then do we truly glorify God, Who gave such power to men.